Azamara Cruises’ new ads emphasize port stays

Azamara Club Cruises will launch a marketing campaign that for the first time will include television advertising.

The multi-channel campaign is built around the theme “The Voyage for Those Who Love Travel.”

It continues to highlight Azamara’s competitive positioning as a destination-focused cruise line that features longer stays, more overnights and evening tours. In addition to television, the campaign will have print, social media, online, direct mail, e-marketing, website and brochure components, Azamara said.

Azamara TV advert below.

Azamara Cruise Video

When Facebook gives way to face time

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightTeens talk to each other on a cruise. My wife made that observation on a recent cruise we took with our two daughters.

I instantly knew what she meant. It wasn’t just that they were conversing, but that they were doing it without the constant reference to a mobile device, seemingly grafted to their hands.

It is very refreshing to see teens talking to each other unaided by devices. Call it one of the unintended benefits of a cruise vacation.

Internet access on a cruise is expensive. As the father of a teen, I say great. It provides me with an excuse to just say no to connecting online. I told my two girls on the cruise they could have the scrap minutes at the end of the cruise after I had used most of my package for work.*TomStieghorst

Once, telecommunications were so difficult at sea that disconnecting was a universal experience for cruise passengers. That has gone away as connections got more reliable and prices for service came down.

So adults can no longer hide from the office, take a break from clients or escape from everyday interactions by taking a cruise. That has its upsides, of course, but not a few of us would willingly trade them away.

As parents, however, one of the worries we have with our teens is whether they will squander the chance to see the world and experience new things because they’re glued to their phones 24/7.

Like the time a few years ago when I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park only to find my daughters’ eyes feasting on a 2- by 3-inch screen instead of the 12,000-foot vistas and overlooks.

My kids make friends with other kids from all over the world on a cruise. My older daughter spent the cruise comparing lives with new friends from England. My younger daughter is still in touch (via social media, of course) with a group from California she met last year on a Holland America cruise.

I like to think that one reason for that is that they are out of touch with old friends long enough to make new ones. Of course, the minute we make the dock, they’re eagerly scanning the waterfront for an Internet cafe.

So far cruise lines have focused on improving Internet quality, rather than reducing the price of a profitable service. But Royal Caribbean International is about to up the ante with the imminent debut of O3B on Allure of the Seas, which promises “land-like” connection speeds.

For now, access is expensive enough that I can keep my kids off the grid on a cruise. I hope it stays that way. Call me old-fashioned, but there should be some place where face-to-face communication thrives, and if it is on a ship, so much the better for cruising.

RCCL’s new Cruise Planner replaces outdated module

By Tom Stieghorst

Going on a cruise used to be as simple as booking a ticket and making a few choices about what to do. Guests often waited until they boarded to book shore excursions and spa treatments.

But the menu of cruise activities has expanded, as have the number of things that can be prearranged from shore.

Today, cruise lines are trying to make it as easy as possible to plan and book onboard activities in advance of departure. The proliferation of options has grown hand-in-hand with the technological capabilities that make selecting cruise activities easy.

The latest example comes from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), which has retooled its planning function so guests can book everything from specialty dining reservations to beverage packages from the comfort of their couch.

RCCL New Cruise Planner

“We been focused on letting our guests hit the ground running on day one, whereas in the past, sometimes day one was spent figuring out what you were going to do,” said Jeff DeKorte, vice president for Web and digital media at RCCL.

RCCL’s new tool, Cruise Planner, replaces an 8-year-old pre-cruise planning module that was increasingly outdated.

The old system had none of the new e-commerce functions, such as shopping carts and wish lists, things that consumers increasingly take for granted when buying things online.

“Every time you bought a new product during the session, you had to enter your credit card again,” DeKorte said. “It was very difficult.”

One of the big improvements in Cruise Planner is the ability to migrate between digital platforms without losing data. So, for example, someone might start researching shore excursions in the morning on their mobile phone, continue at lunch on their desktop PC, and finish after dinner on a tablet while watching TV.

Tablet functionality, which barely existed on the old platform, is now robust, DeKorte said. He hopes that moms that typically do a lot of the cruise planning can now share the load.

“Our vision was to create a product where … the family could lean back on the couch and literally she could hand the tablet to the kids and say, ‘You guys figure out what you want to do, watch the videos, look at the shore excursions, [select] swim with the dolphins and add it to the calendar or the wish list.’

“And then mom can come back later and she can organize,” DeKorte said.

Travel agents can use the tool to the extent that they do pre-cruise planning for clients, either as a service or for a fee.

“It really depends on the agency and the level of service they’re providing to their guests,” DeKorte said. “For those agents who choose not to provide that service to the guests, there’s a much easier tool for them to direct the guest to use.”

As the list of things to prearrange before a cruise grows longer, it threatens to take some of the serendipity out of a cruise vacation. Simply showing up at the ship without a sheet of activities selected in advance seems like a throwback to a simpler time.

But DeKorte said tools like Cruise Planner are meant to provide options, not become a burdensome requirement. “The beautiful thing is for guests who want to take their vacation one day at a time like that, they certainly can,” he said.

At least one other line is also making moves to make pre-cruise planning easier.

Norwegian Cruise Line recently opened its specialty restaurants to reservations 90 days before departure, up from 45 days previously. Guests can also book entertainment options such as Blue Man Group or Cirque Dreams on the Norwegian Epic, Breakaway and Getaway through their MyNCL accounts.

Spa treatments on the Norwegian Epic can now also be booked in advance. Vanessa Picariello, a spokeswoman for Norwegian, said the spa preregistration may be extended to other ships, but that Norwegian still doesn’t have a timetable for when that might happen.